Happy Holy Days

2015-12-30 Holidays img01During roughly the past decade, the so-called “War on Christmas” seems to have made great strides in forcing average people to wish everyone “Happy Holidays” rather than “Merry Christmas” for fear of being considered an inconsiderate religious bigot.

After all, Christianity isn’t the only religion celebrating this time of year. Continue reading

Linus, Love, and the Perils of Peace on Earth

2015-12-24 Christmas img01There are moments, usually somewhere between the fourth and fifth glass of eggnog, when I rank the first few scenes of A Charlie Brown Christmas among the finer artistic accomplishments of our age. The animation is rough-hewn, the voice acting hesitant, the writing somewhere between banality and camp. As art, it is the Gothic rejection of the perfect in favor of the sincere: a lesser stonemason may be allowed his gargoyle, and the cathedral is undiminished when the temple of Apollo would be utterly destroyed.

So if anything saves A Charlie Brown Christmas from itself, it is the sincerity of Charlie Brown, whose soft-spoken anxiety matures into desperation to know what, in a world of pink aluminum trees and impromptu freestyle dance, Christmas is all about.

And Linus’ sincere answer, a simple reading from the Gospel of Luke, is deeply troubling. Continue reading

Nostalgia

2015-12-17 nostalgia img01“Memories for sale!  Get your reminiscing and musing here!  Memories for sale—!”

“Childhood daydreams, first birthdays, and flights of fancy, yours for only three hundred—!”

“Piano lessons, cooking classes, foreign languages, we’ve got ‘em all!  Get your practical skills now—!”

“Memories for sale!  What’s past is present again!  Memories for sale!” Continue reading

Reinventing the Christmas Wheel

2015-12-10 Traditions img01Every year my family struggles to keep up Christmas traditions. It’s not that we find our traditions onerous or time-consuming, so much as that we don’t find many traditions at all.

A friend of mine helped illustrate my family’s dearth of traditions when joining us for dinner one year. When I asked what he would like to eat, he suggested, “Make me a traditional family dish.”

This request stumped me for a while, considering that my dad’s favorite description of my mother’s cooking runs, “Enjoy it while you can—you’ll never see it again.” Casting about in my mind, I recalled a variation on a favorite Mexican dish we had cooked up. Continue reading

It’s a Wonderful Movie

2015-1-1 wonderful img01

Critics try to reduce It’s a Wonderful Life to a proverb: “Virtue is its own reward.” “Money is the root of all evil.” “No man is a failure who has friends,” as the movie itself offers. The truth is, Wonderful Life wouldn’t be a great movie if it proposed simplistic answers to difficult moral quandaries. Instead, the movie introduces viewers to George Bailey, a man with virtues and failings, with grand ambitions and binding obligations. He is both heroic and human. In his struggles and growth as a character, George teaches the audience about living well. The movie achieves greatness by its compelling and believable portrayal of a virtuous character. Continue reading